Defense hits extremes

The good news: Heading into Wednesday night's game with Vanderbilt, Tennessee's basketball team hasn't allowed an opponent to register a field-goal percentage in the 50s all season.

The bad news: The Vols allowed Florida to shoot in the 60s ... 64.8 percent, to be precise. The Gators sank a sizzling 35 of 54 floor shots en route to their 95-57 romp.

How could a team that limited its first 10 opponents to 39-percent shooting suddenly forget how to guard people? Vol head man Buzz Peterson thinks he has the answer.

''We allowed way too much penetration,'' he said. ''And we didn't support each other like we should've on a lot of the penetration. When guys drove, we didn't get to the support spot. We just had a lot of breakdowns.''

This is the same Vol team that limited Tennessee State to 31.1 percent shooting in Game 2, limited The Citadel to 26.4 percent in Game 5, limited Tennessee Tech to 36.8 percent in Game 7 and UMass to 38.1 percent in Game 9.

In the past two games, however, Tennessee's perimeter defense has been weak. As a result, both Georgia (Game 10) and Florida (Game 11) sank 7 of 13 from 3-point range.

Peterson likes to mix some zone with his basic man-to-man but the early deficit at Florida eliminated the zone as an option. So Buzz decided to live or die with man-to-man. Obviously, he died with it on this occasion.

''As far as our man-to-man, we went from playing some of our best against UMass and Georgia to playing some of our worst (at Florida),'' Peterson said. ''They took us off the dribble some and we didn't play the ball screen the way we should've.''

To his credit, the Vol coach shouldered the blame for the defensive disaster.

''I told our guys that I take the blame ... I take the responsibility for it,'' Peterson said, adding in retrospect that, ''I would've done some things a little bit different. You learn from those mistakes, correct 'em and move on.''

Tipoff for the Vol-Vandy game is 7:30 at Thompson-Boling Arena.


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